Sculpture in Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley art forms included sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewellery, terracotta figures etc.

Stone Sculpture

In stone, the two most discussed male figures are male torso and the bearded priest.

Male Torso

The Male torso is a red sandstone figure, which has socket holes in the neck and shoulders for the attachment of head and arms. The frontal posture of the torso has been consciously adopted. The shoulders are well carved and the abdomen looks slightly prominent. This nude male torso is considered to be a remarkable object that in its balanced lines stands somewhat equal to the beautiful art of Gandhara two thousand years later.

Bearded Priest

This steatite figure of the bearded man interpreted as a priest or priest king is draped in a shawl coming under the right arm and covering the left shoulder. His shawl is decorated with trefoil patterns. His eyes are a little elongated, and half-closed as in meditation.

The nose is well formed and of medium size; the mouth is of average size with close-cut moustache and a short beard and whiskers; the ears resemble double shells with a hole in the middle. The hair is parted in the middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed round the head.

An armlet is worn on the right hand and holes around the neck indicate a necklace. The shawl on the shoulder of the bearded priest indicates that the handicraft of embroidery was commonly practiced in Indus Valley Civilization.

Bronze Casting

The most discussed example of metal sculpture in context with Indus Valley is the Dancing Girl. Metal casting was popular at all the major centres of the Indus Valley Civilisation, for example the copper dog and bird of Lothal, bull from Kalibangan and the human figures of copper and bronze from Harappa and Mohenjodaro.

Dancing Girl

This is one of the best known artefacts from the Indus Valley. It’s a four-inch-high copper figure, found in Mohenjodaro. It depicts a girl whose long hair is tied in a bun. Bangles cover her left arm, a bracelet and an amulet or bangle adorn her right arm, and a cowry shell necklace is seen around her neck.

Her right hand is on her hip and her left hand is clasped. She is resting her weight on one leg in a very natural fashion, as in the contraposto techniques of later sculptures. The girls seems be in what is called Tribhanga posture. The jaunty manner and liveliness of the figure are remarkable. She is full of expression and bodily vigour and conveys a lot of information.

Terracotta Sculptures

The terracotta figurines had a universal popularity in the ancient world and Harappan culture was no exception to this. There are plenty of terracotta seals and figurines recovered from Harappan sites which range from toys to cult objects such as mother goddess to birds and animals , including monkeys, dogs, sheep, cattle-both humped and humpless bulls.

The terracotta figurines of Indus Valley were modelled with great details of eyes, hand and neck. However, terracotta images are inferior in depiction of the human forms in comparison to the copper and bronze images of the Indus Valley. Among the human figurines, the female were more common. The head dress in such figurines is more elaborate.

Mother Goddess

The most important terracotta figure in the Indus Valley Civilization is the figure of Mother Goddess. This figure is crude standing female adorned with necklaces hanging over prominent breasts and wearing a loin cloth and a girdle.

The most distinct feature of the mother goddess figurines is a fan-shaped head-dress with a cup-like projection on each side. Rest of the facial figures are very crude and distant from being realistic.

Lost Wax Technique

Bronze casting was a widespread practice during the Indus Valley Civilization, particularly at Harappa. Bronze statues were made by the “lost wax technique”. This practice is still prevalent in many parts of the country particularly the Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. In each region, a slightly different technique is used. Under this technique, the beewax is first melted over an open fire and then strained through a fine cloth into cold water. The bee wax immediately solidifies and it is now passed thru a pharni, so that the wax comes out of it in the shape of noodle like wires. These wax wires are now used to make a shape of the entire image first. After that, this image is covered with a paste of clay, sand and other materials such as cow dung. On one side, an opening is kept. When it becomes dry, the wax was heated and the molten wax was drained out through a tiny hole. The hollow mould thus created was filled with molten metal which took the original shape of the object.

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